Nursing Voices

Friday, July 21, 2006

Do You Remember When......

Doctor Anonymous, do you remember these young ladies?

This picture was taken many years ago at a hospital golf tournament before doctors carried beepers or cell phones. These nurses are searching for Dr. A because they need orders on a new patient.

The average age of a nurse is somewhere between 48-50 years old. And if you’re in that age range like I am, you know how much things have changed since you graduated from nursing school.

Do you remember when there were no IV pumps? Nurses had to run IVs by timing how fast the fluid was running through the IV chamber. Hanging piggyback antibiotics was always an adventure, especially if you were running IVs on multiple patients. The trick was getting back in time to switch bottles once the piggyback was empty, otherwise the patient’s IV would clot off.

Do you remember when there were no cell phones or beepers? It wasn’t easy tracking down a doctor when you needed something. Finding the doctor after hours was an art, and required a wealth of information at your fingertips. I learned the favorite watering hole of every doctor at the hospital. I knew the names of their wives, and the names and phone numbers of their mistresses. Tracking down a doctor took guts. On occasion, when a doctor took his phone off the hook because he didn’t want to be bothered, I would have the police go and knock on his front door, and tell him to put the phone back on the hook.

Do you remember when there were no computers or fax machines? Nurses were expected to be stenographers, typing up reports they received over the phone from other hospital departments, and hand delivering them to the doctors as they made their rounds. Nurses were also expected to give up their seat when a doctor came into the nurses’ station.

Do you remember when you HAD to wear a white dress, white nylons and nursing shoes, and a nurse's cap? The dress was hard to keep white (you know what I mean), the nylons were uncomfortable and would run, and the hat was always getting tangled up in IV tubing while you were counting those infernal drops. At the end of my shift, I looked more like a bag lady than an angel of mercy.

There are so many things I remember, and so many things I wish I could forget. What do you remember about the good old days?


Blogger Janet said...

Steel bedpans and emesis basins, urinals and red rubber urinary catheters; all sent to Central Supply to be autoclaved after the patient was discharged.

Working in ICU without an IV pump, dropping meds into a burette and counting drops to give the med over an hour. Making rounds on each patient every hour and filling the burettes for an hour's worth of fluid. IV fluids in glass bottles.

Medication orders on little cards, checking the cards against the charts at the beginning of each shift.

Charting in black ink for day shift, green ink for evening shift, and red ink for night shift.

Starting IV's and drawing blood without wearing gloves.

Using KY jelly to glue the ribbon on my cap. Struggling to keep the stupid cap pinned to my short, fine hair and the constant search for white bobby-pins.

Getting in trouble for wearing tennis shoes to work. Later on getting in trouble for not wearing white socks with my scrubs.

Making rounds with the doctors, walking behind them and carrying the charts.

Thick white cloth tape. I remember when Tegaderm and paper tape were new.

Give me time and I'm sure I'll think of more.

9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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11:01 AM  
Blogger Sid Schwab said...

I remember some colleagues, even before cellphones and long-range pagers, taking call from boats. The most memorable (a story told to me by my partners about their partner in earlier days): two of the three went to the ACS meeting in San Francisco, leaving the third to cover the practice. As they walked out of the hotel, there was the third. "Irv!" they shouted. "What are you doing here? You're on call!!" "I can be back there in 6 hours" was the reply. Time have indeed changed.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Mother Jones RN said...

Janet:I forgot about green ink. Of course at my age, I forget about a lot of things.

Sid: You're right, things sure have changed

rx850: Hot Pants! Oh yes, those were the days. Good thing they aren't around anymore. Imagine middle aged nurses trying to work in those things. Very scary!

3:49 PM  
Blogger Kentucky Rain said...

What seems like centuries ago I worked as an orderly in a St. Louis hospital and I remember all of the stuff we didn't have. As I have aged, however I must confess to a deep and abiding appreciation for the picture of the lovely nurses walking toward...looking for...oh well. I should be quiet now :-)

1:28 PM  
Blogger Intelinurse said...

I really would like to write a book about how the nursing role has changed and evolved. The most interesting parts of my Fundamentals lectures were stories illustrated by "how things used to be." I will never forget being told that nurses used to be responsible for shining the docs shoes, and mopping floors.

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sing it, sistahs! LOL!

I have nothing to add - you guys covered it all, but...

There was a time I DID look like those youngins in the photo and...

I would wear my cap in TWO SECONDS FLAT, anytime, anywhere!

I do remember pouring an entire shift worth of meds in the morning.....

12:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well, most of nursing is moving light years ahead....except dress---and pay. Our nurses MUST wear ALL WHITE again! No caps though...yet. (There are 40,000 employees in our teaching and research healthcare system, so we're not a small "old fashioned" doctors practice.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a CNA and All the nurses at the end of the shift would be sitting at the desk charting and smoking ciggarettes.

12:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked in pediatrics. We would put children with high temperatures in ice water baths or would put them on top of ice mattresses which we would have to fill with ice by hand.

10:20 PM  
Blogger NocturnalRN said...

God bless ya'll for working then. I couldn't have done it. I wonder what I would have been?????

2:48 PM  
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9:21 AM  
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